Angel Hair

Perhaps you remember it. Angel hair. I think a law was passed forbidding its sale because it was spun glass, bits of which could get into your skin or eyes.

You brought it out at Christmas. It was a little like cotton batting, maybe not quite so thick, and you pulled it, thinning out gauzy strands you then arranged on the Christmas tree, especially around the lights, those jolly fat lights that, wih metallic reflectors behind them, looked like psychedelic flowers.

Grandma left the tree-decorating to others. If the weather was sunny, she might be in the kitchen making divinity. You didn’t make divinity in the winter, when the air was damp and gray, as the candy would never “set.”

Since it took nearly forever to beat the candy by hand, I sometimes helped. Grandma did own a Mixmaster, but she didn’t use it for the divinity or for beating angelfood cake batter, either. Perhaps she was saving the Mixmaster for “good.” Any number of things were saved in Grandma’s house for “good” — things too dear in cost or sentiment to be taken for granted and possibly broken.

To help with beating the divinity was both a chore and an honor, a sign that I was growing older. Besides, I could steal a bit while it was still gooey, the best time. That divinity and angel hair could heighten the holiday together, was surely apt.

In the living room, the angel hair was catching the colors of the lights and the ornaments, softening them and dispersing them in a pale foggy haze. Magical. I would lie on the sofa staring into the tree, wanting to crawl inside, where further magic might be found.

In the soiled slush of March, angel hair dreams drowned. But in the dark heart of the next dying year, someone, Grandpa maybe, would set up a tree. Good smelling, yes, but just a tree like every other good-smelling tree — till the moment where the lights flared on and the watery, gossamer hues of angel hair drew you, as before, into freshly spun dreams.

Happy Holidays! 2011